Monthly Archives: July 2011

Basic Garden Plans for a Small Yard

If I were to landscape a front-and-back yard – of the postage-stamp size found in most of my neighbourhood, for example – I would want:


Two fruit trees – like a dwarf sour cherry and a two-variety pear, or maybe a weeping black mulberry and three-variety apple or plum tree.  (I’m a big fan of multi-variety dwarf trees, fyi.  There are a lot of fruits – apples, plums, pears – that need two varieties present to fruit well.  If the two varieties are growing on the same root stock, so much the better!)


A berry bush – think red currants (prolific and tasty), haskaps (a super-hardy, early-fruiting shrub whose yields taste a little like blueberries or service berries), or thimble-berries (aka: purple flowering raspberries, which come with big, beautiful purple-pink blossoms in the spring).


A perennial early-spring favourite – such as ostrich ferns (which, in their just-sprouted form are better-recognized as fiddleheads), asparagus, or even rhubarb.




Some large pots for herbs and/or container-loving plants (like bell peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes – even a hardy fig tree, or Meyer lemon, if you’ve got the deck space and can bring it inside for the winter)


A pergola or garden arch or similar that could be used to trellis grapes or some other vining crop (like runner beans, hardy kiwi, or even cucumbers and winter squash)




A sun-lit space for annual veggies, hopefully at least six feet square, but preferably double that, to be grown in-ground (although, if your “yard” has been paved over, which many of them have, there are Things you can do with large containers that effectively simulate raised beds).


This would give you plenty of “dependable” perennial foods – mostly fruit, plus some Very Early vegetables – that you can enjoy as they come off the tree/vine/etc, but that you can also preserve (think jams, chutneys, jellies, butters and compotes) for use over winter. Plus you’d also have the space to grow, for example, hardy root crops that keep well through the winter.



So many front yards in my (centuries-established, working class) neighbourhood come equipped with fruit trees — sour cherry, plum, sweet apple, choke cherry, service berry, pear, crab apple, hawthorn (the list goes on), frequently with grapes added into the mix as well — and so many of my neighbours under-plant their trees with carefully trellised beans, squash, and tomatoes, along with herbs, bok choi, garlic, leaf amaranth, and all sorts of other veggies.  It astonishes me how much food they can grow off six square feet of earth, in partial shade, year after year.

Right now, of course, I’m growing stuff out of rubbermaid bins on my balcony (my butternut squash might maybe-just-maybe produce an actual fruit!  ZOMG!) but, eventually, I’m hoping to get my hands on a yard like the one I described above — the kind that can feed me just by being what it is.


What kinds of food plants do you grow, or dream about growing?


– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Barter! And Local Food! :-D

I got a lovely, if stress-inducing, surprise this morning. Some co-workers of my partner go hunting a couple of times a year, so she’s arranged to have us barter preserves for steaks. Moose, and possibly deer, specifically.

Other than freaking out about not having enough jam on hand (despite not needing it on hand for another 2-3 months) to do an appropriate trade, I’m really pleased about this.

See, I’m not a hunter. I don’t know how to aim and I don’t know how to shoot and I don’t know how to gut and dress a dead body. While I can see that as a potential in my future, somewhere in the foggy distance, it’s seriously Not There Now. Which means that my options for eating critters are:
(a) factory farm stuff, that I don’t support ethically but can afford
(b) ethically raised smaller farmer stuff, that I LOVE but can’t afford
(c) being vegetarian – which I just seriously Don’t Wanna.

So the possibility of getting Happy Animal Meat (as opposed to factory farm meat) at a price I can actually afford (barter) is an extremely good thing in my world. 😀

Re: Don’t Wanna: Yeah, that. I’ve tried being vegetarian, with short stretches of vegan, and it doesn’t work. I’m constantly hungry (not “I have eaten something light and so I don’t have the heaviness of body that I associate with fullness” but “I am slightly dizzy and my stomach feels like a clenched fist, wtf didn’t I just eat??”) and after a few weeks have trouble stringing complicated thoughts together (this on eggs-&-dairy a-go-go + a wide variety of mixed beans and whole grains, so…). So, yeah. Not for me.

That said: I live in a temperate climate with long-ass winters and an unreliable growing season. I know people can and do eat a mostly vegetarian diet in this area (look at the Six Nations and the Algonquins, hello), but a diet that includes fish-in-summer and mammals-in-winter does make sense to me from an Eat Local perspective.

Anyway. That’s my thoughts on that. With this in mind, i will have to make extra preserves this year (haha “this year” – it’s my first year doing preserves with any intent at all) so I can make some appropriate trades. 🙂

– Cheers,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden

The Spirit Stove

My girlfriend has a camp stove.  It’s an antique (about 50 ninty years old, although it could easily be twice that, going by the design [EDIT: we recently found out it was made in the 1920s /EDIT]) brass stove that burns kerosene but which could also burn just about anything (biodiesel, rubbing alcohol, methane…) and keep working.  It packs up into a 4”x6”x8” red metal box and, up until now, I hadn’t met it.  In fact, it lived in a marvelous, white-water-canoeing-proof camping barrel and I’d never even seen it until now.


Readers, I am something of a bunker when it comes to Magic Stuff and sensing the spirits of places and so on.  I have to be Wide Open just to pick up inklings, most of the time.  So, on those occasions when I find myself picking up on someone without going through a lot of riggamarole about it, it’s eye-opening.


My girlfriends stove – her tiny, brass Pet Optimus – is very much alive, to the point where I can actually pick up on it.


Maybe it’s because I just read Deathless – which is a WW2-era retelling of the Russian folk-story of Koschei the Deathless with all the gloriousness that Cathrynne M. Valente’s fabulous enchanted-world writing has to offer (I loves it!) – but the little stove made me think of the Domovoi, the little house-spirits who live behind/under the stove.


And I thought:  This isn’t a feeling I get from the stove in my kitchen.  And part of that, of course, is that it’s a different entity.  But also…  The little brass stove is light and warmth and food under conditions that don’t include electricity or central heating.  It’s a Hearth cut down to its most basic state – a tamed, or at least contained, flame and means of supporting a pot over it.  It’s all the safety and security of a kitchen, packed up tight in a box you can carry in your back-pack – or even your purse, if you had to.


This compact little brass person reminded me that the hearth is the metaphorical (and frequently literal) centre of the home for a reason.  Food, warmth, light, safety.  What else is a home?

Choke Cherries – Part One (Plotting)

So, in addition to linking to this post at Seasonal Ontario, which documents what is typically available all through the Ontario Food Year, I also wanted to talk a bit about Choke cherries.


I’ve only just started cluing into them.  I wasn’t entirely sure if they were edible.  Half of me thought they were, and half of me thought they weren’t.  (Where is the line between tannins-a-go-go and this-bitterness-is-poison, again?)  But, yes, they are.  The key, I gather, is to pick then when they’re slightly over-ripe (very, very black, not even a hint of red or wine colour anywhere), at which point they’ll be acerbic, definitely, but they won’t make your mouth go numb.


Choke cherries, being an indigenous wild cherry, are all over the place.  In weedy lots, sure, but also planted in front yards and parks by city officials and home-owners who wanted easy-to-care-for trees that looked kind of cool (purple leaves, long frilly flowers, and subtle yet still eye-catching fruit).  And the fruit is generally just left to rot off the tree, like so much other front yard fruit around here.


There’s a tree in one of my local parks (YAY!) and tonnes of others within easy reaching distance along sidewalks around town, so I’ve got no shortage of availability.  My plan is try making (a) choke cherry jelly, and (b) choke cherry syrup[1].  Since my sweetie and I have Big Plans to try brewing apple-pear cider (using wild apples and cultivated pear-scrumps, plus Whatever) this year, we may also throw in some cherries or other berries to add some extra zing of flavor.  Some pitted choke cherries or sour cherries may find their way into the mix, as well as a scoop or two of honey.


I’m also kind of curious about doing a fruit-leather – take mashed apple pulp and mashed pick-a-fruit pulp and mix them together, then spread the mixture on a lightly-oiled baking sheet and dry it out in an oven on super-low heat for many, many hours, flipping it over part way through.  It makes for a good dried fruit snack and, duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude… there are SO MANY apples around town, you have no idea…


Anyway.  This is my plan.


Chokecherries!  Who knew?


– Cheers,

– Meliad, the Birch Maiden


[1] The kind of thing you could mix up with sparkling water for a lemonade-like drink, y’know?  Basically, I’m always on the look-out for lemon-substitutes.  What can I use instead of lemon juice for this dressing or those cupcakes, or that chicken dish.  Right now, cranberries are kind of in the lead, but I’d like to try my hand at using rosehip/hawthorn/chokecherry juice (or syrup) as a stand-in as well.  Thoughts?  Suggestions?

The Perils and Pitfalls of Balcony Gardening

So.  After a weekend of glorious sunshine and massively high temperatures, it has cooled down a bunch and is now raining.  It’s lovely.  I’m really enjoying sitting in the apartment, looking out the (screen) door at the fine drizzle that’s going on.  I’m hoping that my wee, container-based garden finds it as refreshing as I do (hint: it’s a covered balcony, so they aren’t getting any of the water-benefit).


It’s late July, and – this being my first (semi-)successful foray into balcony gardening (the actual first time being three years ago when I managed to kill peppermint.  PEPPERMINT!) – I’m beginning to get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t.


Radishes:  Are fantastic.  They have no problem and, as long as they’re in 8” of soil, will radish themselves to all-get-out with no apparent problems.  (Granted, I haven’t harvested any of them, but they look like they’re ready to come in, so…)  Looking forward to trying my hand at pickled radishes[1] in the near future.


Garlic:  No idea.  They have leaves.  They don’t have scapes yet.  So they may not be doing so well.  We’ll see what happens after the radishes come out (they’re in the same bin, y’see).


Chinese Kale and Chinese Broccoli:  Small.  Baby-leaf-lettuce sized leaves rather than the big, thick stalks that I’m used to seeing at the market up the street.  They would probably do better in a deeper soil, me-thinks.


Nasturtiums:  Fantastic.  No flowers, but I was growing them for their spicy, spicy leaves, so I judge this to be a success.  I’m hoping that they dry well and keep their heat, as this will mean I have a spiffy, local herb to use in lieu of things like cayenne pepper.  (Anyone tried doing this?)


Other Herbs:  Basil and peppermint = great gangbusters.  Coriander = taken off quite nicely, but not massive.  Dill = Uhm… Not doing so well.  (Maybe it needs a bigger pot?  Deeper soil?  Maybe it’s just Very Temperamental?)


Baby Leaf Lettuce:  I don’t think I’m going to bother with this next year.  If I were a leaf-lettuce fiend, and we ate a tonne of lettuce-based salads, then yeah, totally, and I’d grow about six times as much of it.  But, as it stands, I think I’d be better off growing ruby (or rainbow) chard and snipping a few of the baby leaves for salads every now and then.  As it stands, the lettuce has really only given us one (tasty, granted) salad, and has otherwise been a tad more trouble than it’s worth.  Deeper soil (better water-retention) might help here, but as we aren’t huge lettuce-eaters (I’d rather make salads out of more substantial veggies, I have to admit), and since Greens are a fairly abundant wild food around here[2], I think I will just not grow this next year.


Ground Cherries:  Have sprouted! 😀  Which, given that these are a start-early plant as in: sow them in late April, or earlier, indoors), is currently a success.  I’m hoping that we’ll get some fruit off of them, but it may mean bringing them indoors.  Since I utterly LOVE ground cherries – they’re like citrus fruit that grows in temperate climates – I will definitely be growing these next year, but I’ll probably be following the sowing directions and starting them (along with, perhaps, some sweet bell peppers) indoors, well before outdoor-planting time.


Beans: We are getting tones of scarlet-runner flowers.  Which is glorious.  I’m not seeing any white flowers, though, so I don’t think I’m going to get any Kentucky wonder OR romano beans this year.  Which isn’t massively surprising, given that some of those seeds are at least three years old, maybe more.  However, since I’m not yet seeing any scarlet runner beans showing up, I can’t actually judge the bean bin as a success or not.  I’m wondering if there’s an excess of nitrogen happening.  I’ll need to check out which of the potassium-nitrogen-phosphorus element is the one that governs fruit productions, and then add some protein or mashed bananas or diluted dish soap to the mix, to see if I can’t help things along.


Tomatoes: Fabulous.  We’ve only had three come to full ripeness, so far, but the rest of them are getting in on the act and we should be pulling in half a dozen baby tomatoes per day for a little (very little) while in short order.  The beefsteak tomatoes are still growing and haven’t yet begun to ripen, but they look like they’re doing well and (a) October is a long way off, and (b) I want an excuse to make green-tomato-relish (or similar) anyway, so this might get me my chance.


Banana Pepper:  Actually has two peppers on it! 😀  This is another one of those plants that I picked up just to see if it would work while assuming that I was basically chucking $4 into the compost bin.  So the fact that it’s not only flowered but appears to be actually fruiting?  Fantastic! 😀


Cucumber:  Well, you all know about my mishap with the sheers.  I think my little cucumber plant was sufficiently traumatized by that that it couldn’t recover.  It has produced one single cucumber further (that was already well along on its road to full development).  Right now, the majority of my (marginally premature, but not really) cucumber crop (six 4” cucumbers, all told) is sitting in my fridge, waiting to see how those pickles turned out before either (a) being made into more pickles, or (b) being made into a delicious, delicious salad involving baby tomatoes (once they ripen).  I think the cucumbers would have also done better if they hadn’t been sharing the bin with butternut squash.


Butternut Squash:  Oh, Butternut Squash.  You are beloved to my heart, so it saddens me to see you fare so ill.  Reader, I think they need their own bucket.  I foolishly (very, very foolishly) planted three squash seeds in with the (already sprouted) cucumber plant.  In future, I think it would be better for me to use tall, narrow barrels (or similar – like a 2.5’-high waist-paper pail with a hole drilled into the bottom) and plant each of my squash with a couple of beans (and a tin of tuna mixed in with the soil, um) and give each plant its own space.  As it stands, I think they are competing for soil nutrients (every one of them is a heavy feeder, see?), and that’s not helping any of them.  Part of me is considering transplanting one of them to the bean bin and seeing what happens.  Another part of me just doesn’t want to make things any worse… :-\  Next year, I think I will be trying either (a) bush delicata, or (b) only one heavy-feeding-vine-plant per bucket, or (c) both.


Anyway.  That’s where the garden is at right now.  Thank goodness we live in a grocery-store-enabled place.  Otherwise, we’d be seriously screwed.



– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden



[1] This is my dilemma:  When I bring food in from the garden, my first instinct, with a lot of it, isn’t to eat it fresh but to can the hell out of it.  Same with the fruit I pull in off local trees.  On the one hand, Go Me for making the preserves.  On the other hand… isn’t fresh produce awesome?  Shouldn’t I be putting it freshly into meals while it’s available fresh??

[2] Dandelions, garlic mustard, sorrel, purslane, grape leaves, etc… plus stinging nettles and even the occasional fiddlehead in the earliest spring for soups and so-on.

On Potentially Fishing for Urban Fish

So, my beloved and I seem to be developing something of a shared brain. Which is an interesting thing to be doing, as we are also both autonomous human beings (as in: merging is not being a Problem here, thank goodness).

Anyway. The point of this post isn’t to comment on our developing tendency to think about the same thing at the same time, so much as to talk about the latest mind-meld that is leading us to this conclusion: We have both been thinking about (re-)learning how to fish, with local food (and cheaper groceries) in mind.


Basically, a year-long Ontario fishing license (including the Outdoor Card) costs about $37.00 Cdn.  Which is the price of about five 2-person-sized fish fillets from the grocery store, but which can – if you’re good at this – net you close to 50 2-person-sized fish dinners over the course of year, if you catch the fish yourself.  (Granted, you’ve also got to factor in rods, lines, reels, hooks, bait, and so-on.  BUT the difference in price is still kind of staggering).  That it would be local fish, at that — I daydream about bass sauteed with mushrooms in cream and seasoned with dill and tarragon, serving baked pickerel with a pickled sour cherries, or doing dried, candied brown trout in a solar dehydrator on the balcony — just makes it all the more appealing.

Basically, what’s giving us – or at least me – the crazy idea that we could do this is that (a) we don’t have a tonne of money, so being able to cut out the middle-man in terms of meat-acquisition is a good idea, but also (b) I grew up fishing (on rare occasions, but still) with my dad.  So I’ve done it before and I know how to use a line (more or less – it’s been about 14 years) and have never had any qualms about dragging a fish to hir death.

There’s a ridiculous variety of fish available in the local (urban) rivers and the wee lake (“lake”) that feeds into (out of?) the Canal, and I already know that you can eat those fish safely.  For a given value of “safely”, at any rate.  According to the Consumption Advisory, we can basically eat Ottawa fish twice a week (plus as much carp-under-two-feet-long as we want), or there-abouts, after-which we’ll be kind of pushing things, contaminants-wise.

The contaminants thing, I have to admit, is a little worrying.  Partly just from a personal health perspective.  I mean, E.coli doesn’t effect cold-blooded people like fish.  However.  You can’t really cook mercury out of a body, right?  Of course, the other reason is:  Dammit!  Why are our fish so damn full of crap??  Which, between Chalk River, pesticide runoff, and the fact that the Ottawa Waist Treatment Plant can’t actually handle the volume of waist that goes through it, is actually an unpleasantly easy question to answer. 😦

But then there’s the next part of the question.  Beyond worrying about getting a license, fish-born contaminants, and seasonal/catch regulations…  Am I really sure I could kill my own fish?  Because, when I went fishing with my dad as a kid, I didn’t do that part.  I’d wait for them to bite, and I’d pull them in, and I definitely held the belief that, if you’re going to fish, you’re going to eat what you catch.  Even if it’s a bony-assed sunfish that’s utterly tiny.  Because you don’t go killing people for fun.  But I never did the actual killing.  Part of me, the part that knows I have no problem with blood and causing physical harm, at least in a BDSM context (I will direct you to Syrens for that side of my personality), suspects that I’d be fine with it, at least once I’d done it once or twice.  But another part of me – the part that hasn’t done this before and is very afraid of messing it up (and, for example, only badly injuring fish that are already gasping for breath and probably terrified, instead of killing them outright on the first go), isn’t entirely sure that I can.  Trick is, I’m not sure how you “practice” something like that. :-\

So, yeah.  For the moment, this is still very much in the “discussion” category of our lives, rather than the “making it a reality” part.  But… it’s rapidly moving towards a “reality”.  Next year, I suspect, I will be trying my hand at fishing. 🙂

On Bread

I made bread yesterday.  And cookies.

I know.  Baking when it’s 41C (that something like 106F, for you fahrenheit people) with the humidity, why was I turning on the oven??


But it’s something I do.  I’ve been baking bread since I was about fifteen, off and on (but mostly on), and it’s something I watched my mom do when I was little and we lived in the Maritimes and she’d do it every week for both us and the farmer’s market where she had a stall (bread, fresh produce, and bouquets of marsh flowers, fyi).


I love that bread is alive (even though, of course, you kill it when you bake it).  I love it because it’s such a huge staple food — the way rice is in just about every part of the world.  The staff of life.


I’ve got a cook book called Laurel’s Kitchen (I’ve got the original, which was given to my parents before I was born, but I’m linking you to The New Laurel’s Kitchen because it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay less expensive than the original) and, while I definitely don’t agree with all of its politics, I love the way it talks about bread as a living thing that nurtures the makers/eaters on multiple levels.

It does.

When I bake bread — most of the time, anyway — I feel like I’m doing spiritual practice. My deities are those of hearth and home and harvest as much as they are of meadow and moon, sun and ground and crossroads. So when I take flour(s), warm water, honey and yeast, salt and oil and (sometimes) milk and eggs, and turn them into a living dough that I then turn into an edible substance of deliciousness… I’m working with the flesh of a number of my deities, and I’m doing something kind of akin to magic (sort of like alchemy?).

Sometimes I wonder if that’s why so many people (even now, when most of the folks I know do their own kitchen alchemy, making pickles or jam or paneer) react with “You make your own bread??? From scratch???” when they find out.
Other times, I figure they react like that because, no matter how easy bread-making actually is, the theoretical time-consumption and physical work is… a little intimidating if you haven’t tried it before.

Anyway. Those are just some very scattered thoughts on bread. Here. Have a poem:



Anyone who tells you
is a science
is lying
or misinformed

Oh, sure
if you follow the directions
to the letter
(six cups of flour
a tablespoon of yeast)
you’ll get something to eat
it may even be loaf-shaped

But it won’t be Bread

Because Bread is an art
The art
of making miracles
from scratch

It is breathing
back into the dead
(desicated bodies
the blood of trees
even stones)

It is taking what you have
whatever you have
mashed potatoes
and turning it
and turning it
and turning it
by fire and life
and the work your hands
you have turned it
into something new

is an act of worship

It is the art
of making love

like flesh


Meliad the Birch Maiden

Random Link

So there is this blog (see “Pagan” section of my links list) called Adventures in Animism.

It is pretty awesome, as far as I can tell.

She has a post there about food and culture and relating to the land and how art and culture grow out of eating.  Which is not the point of the post, per se, but it’s a significant chunk of what I got out of it.

Do go read.

I will, probably, end up talking about this subject (at length) in future posts.  So, yeah.  Putting this here in part for my own benefit/reference.  (NOTE:  She also has this hand Bioreeeeeeeeeeegional Quiz.  See how much you know about your home. :-))


– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Spells for Getting Rid of Vermin

Someone asked me if I know a spell for getting rid of cockroaches.

I think she meant it facetiously, but… I think I might.


I’m reminded of those Witches’ Bottles:

Take an old pasta sauce jar, or something similar.  Fill it with bent, rusted nails and broken glass, a measure of salt and one or more of boric acid (you can also throw in some baking soda and icing sugar, if you’re inclined – same difference.  But I’d stick with the acid.  I know it works).  Add a live cockroach (if you can, or a dead one, if it’s easier, which it is for a lot of reasons).  Lid the jar.  Seal it with wax.  Mutter at it appropriately (“Get the hell away from me.  Stay the hell out of my house!” works well enough).  Take it far away and bury it.  Ideally somewhere busy, where the passage of feet, bicycles, shopping carts, won’t let it get out again.


Normally, you fill these things with piss, rotting blood, things that repel.  In this case, I think roach poison is more fitting, and more likely to get the point across.


Good luck.


– Meliad the Birch Maiden

Pickles – My First Time (Garlic-Dill Cucumber Pickles)

So I inadvertently killed half my cucumber plant, then other day, when I mistook its slender stem for a leaf-stem and cut through it to clip a hard-to-reach cuke.

Woops. :-\

So I made pickles.  Half from one of the cucumbers (they’re small — not more than about 4″ long) and half from the cucumber slices left over after a party I helped to throw the other night.  (The left-over veggies are finding their way into salads, at the moment, but I’m inclined to see if I can’t find a pickled radishes recipe somewhere, just to try it out…)

My sister makes garlic-jalapeno dills (asparagus and cucumber, both) every year, and gives them out as xmas presents.  I love them to bits, they are delicious.  So – no surprises here – I decided it was high time to figure out how to do so for myself.

I’m going to come right out and say this now (it probably won’t be the last time):  Cooking is emphatically NOT an exact science for me.  Most recipes cooking techniques were developed centuries before standardized measuring cups, let alone candy thermometers, pH-testers, and refrigeration.  So, while, yes, I’m aware that all that sugar, all that vinegar, those spices and that salt, they’re all there for a reason, I’m also not particularly afraid to play with things a little bit.  (The Kitchen Witch school of cooking – and composting, come to that – as opposed to the CM school).

As such, while I totally did the two-day thing where you soak the cucumbers in super-salty water for 24 hours beforehand, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly when it came to the Extras.

This is how I did it:


Garlic-Dill Pickled Cucumbers


1 3/4 C sliced cucumbers (this is two small cucumbers or 1 medium-sized one, more or less)

1/2 C salt

water to cover


For the Extras

1 large (or 2 small) clove fresh garlic, slivered

2 tbsp dried dill weed

1 tsp pickling spice

pinch whole mustard seeds

5 whole black pepper corns

1 grape leaf (this will help keep the pickles crunchy, or so I’m told)


For the Brine

1C white wine vinegar

1/2 C water

1 (heaping) tsp salt


Day One:

Lay the cucumber in a flat-bottom tupperware, layering them with the salt (1/4 C per layer, more or less), until the tupperware is half-full OR you run out of cucumber.

Cover the cucumbers with water, then set a saucer on top to keep them from floating

Put the lid on the tupperware and let sit over night (12-24 hours).  I left mine on the counter, but you could also put it in the fridge

Day Two:

Drain the water off your cucumbers, then rinse them very well and drain them again.

Prepare your Extras so that they are ready to be put in the canning jar.  Don’t mix them together quite yet.

Fill a frying pan (I use a steel one, but whatever) most of the way with water.  Put the lid, ring, and mouth-end of a 2C mason jar into the water (make sure the water can get up inside the jar a little bit).

Turn it on high and let the steam sterilize the jars for a good five minutes once the water is at a rolling boil.  (The inside of the jar should have some water condensing on its sides, fyi).

Take the jar, lid, and ring out of the water (use oven mits for the jar, tongs for the lid and the ring) and set them aside (I put them on a wire rack, personally).

In a small pot, combine the vinegar, water, and salt, stirring and bringing it to a hard boil while the salt dissolves.  Once the salt dissolves, keep it boiling for another two minutes (covering it is fine).

Put the pickling spice, mustard and peppercorns, plus HALF the dill and HALF the garlic into the jar.

Pack the cucumbers and the grape leaf (can be torn up) into the jar, leaving about half an inch of head-room between the cucumbers and the collar of the jar.  NOW add the rest of the dill and the rest of the garlic.

Pour the HOT vinegar mixture into the jar, not all the way up to the top (you will have some left over).  Tap the side of the jar for a little bit to encourage the air bubbles to rise to the top and to make sure the vinegar mixture gets into all the nooks and crannies.  Top up the jar a little bit, if needed, but you probably won’t have to.

Cap the jar securely.  Now up-end it in the frying pan again (you may need to top up the water in the frying pan at this point) and boil the water again, leaving the jar in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes before removing it.

Turn it right-side-up and set it on a wire rack (or the counter) to cool.  As it cools, you’ll (eventually – mine took a little while) hear the “plink” of the lid sealing itself to the jar.  If you don’t hear this, you will need to re-can the pickles (or just store them in the fridge and eat them up very quickly).

Give the pickles a good two weeks to let their flavours mingle and develop, then dig in.


Having only made these yesterday, I have no idea how they taste.  However, being as I love mustard and garlic and dill and cucumbers, and my partner loves garlic and pepper and cucumbers, chances are good we’ll quite enjoy them.

As far as things go, magically?  There’s nothing specifically magical-intentional about these pickles.  BUT the dill was grown by my partner in her long-ago garden, and the cucumbers were grown, by me, on our shared balcony this summer, so I’m quite happy to code this as a symbolic entwining of our two green thumbs and a reflection of our tendency to nurture each other.

– Cheers,

– Meliad the Birch Maiden